Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Purpose, why do people have such an obsession with the purpose of life or having a purpose driven life? The desire for purpose in life is a very powerful force and although it is more of an abstract need it is almost as significant as the need for food. Rick Warren’s renowned book, The Purpose Driven Life is evidence of that. The book has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for advice books for 174 weeks (as of May 2006). As of November 2005, The Purpose Driven Life has been translated into 56 languages and was the bestselling book in the world for 2003, 2004, and 2005. It has won numerous literary awards. Nobody can argue against the fact that the desire for purpose is a deep and foundational need of every person. This is an intentional design of God’s in his creation of you and me and every other person on earth. The entire book of Ecclesiastes is the writings of a man struggling with the purpose of life and the whole Bible is saturated with God’s view of how we can find significance.
For young people the need for purpose becomes especially acute during the senior year of high school as they face their impending graduation and an upcoming year that will be determined almost exclusively by their own personal choices instead of mandated by the government and parents. This can be a very emotional time with tremendous changes including moving, working, study schedules, new friends, fewer friends, the parent/child relationship, giant amounts of freedom and so much more. In fact the social changes are so great and the lack of purpose, significance, and direction so overwhelming that suicide has become the 2nd leading cause of death among college students and studies have shown that 18-24 year-olds think about suicide more often than any other age group. To grasp God’s view of purpose at this young age would be to gain an incredible sense of peace and satisfaction.
That wasn’t the case for me. Different people have different desires regarding the search for purpose and the need for significance. I graduated from high school in 1994 from Point Loma High School with a driving desire to be significant. I read books about great spiritual leaders whose lives I considered full of purpose and throughout college I measured my achievements against the lives of those I read about. I wanted to be at least as significant, but preferably more significant than those Christians. I wanted to preach to thousands and lead hundreds to Christ. But I never really examined my heart and why I had this insatiable desire to achieve, to do, and to become. I planned, set goals, worked hard and I accomplished a lot. Planning and goal setting are important but when they make it difficult for you to enjoy today or cause you to focus more on crowds than individuals, it’s time to ask the Lord to search your heart and make sure your motives are right. Over time God began to help me see where my desires were misguided (he continues to do so) and he began to give me a better understanding of his view of what it means to live a life of purpose.
The desire for purpose is unstoppable and people try to satisfy it by finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, a husband or wife, a good job, a sports team, a fun hobby, an extreme sport, a career, the right college, a nice car, a great stereo system, an awesome vacation, or plenty of other options. There is nothing wrong with many of these but ultimately, God has designed us so that the most satisfying sense of purpose and significance comes from knowing Christ intimately and helping others know Him better by finding ways to serve people on a frequent basis. It almost seems ridiculous, “I’ll find more purpose in serving someone than I will by taking a vacation in Hawaii?” but it’s the truth. You’ll only realize it when you try it. I have the perfect opportunity for you, volunteer for the junior high or high school youth ministry and “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Psalm 34:8) Call or contact me, Kevin Conover, at 619-251-9292.